Size evolution in island lizards

Shai Meiri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: The island rule, small animal gigantism and large animal dwarfism on islands, is a topic of much recent debate. While size evolution of insular lizards has been widely studied, whether or not they follow the island rule has never been investigated. I examined whether lizards show patterns consistent with the island rule. Location: Islands worldwide. Methods: I used literature data on the sizes of island-mainland population pairs in 59 species of lizards, spanning the entire size range of the group, and tested whether small insular lizards are larger than their mainland conspecifics and large insular lizards are smaller. I examined the influence of island area, island isolation, and dietary preferences on lizard size evolution. Results: Using mean snout-vent length as an index of body size, I found that small lizards on islands become smaller than their mainland conspecifics, while large ones become larger still, opposite to predictions of the island rule. This was especially strong in carnivorous lizards; omnivorous and herbivorous species showed a pattern consistent with the island rule but this result was not statistically significant. No trends consistent with the island rule were found when maximum snout-vent length was used. Island area had, at best, a weak effect on body size. Using maximum snout-vent length as an index of body size resulted in most lizard populations appearing to be dwarfed on islands, but no such pattern was revealed when mean snout-vent length was used as a size index. Main conclusions: I suggest that lizard body size is mostly influenced by resource availability, with large size allowing some lizard populations to exploit resources that are unavailable on the mainland. Lizards do not follow the island rule. Maximum snout-vent length may be biased by sampling effort, which should be taken into account when one uses this size index.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-708
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Natural Environment Research Councilcpb010001


    • Body size
    • Dwar fism
    • Gigantism
    • Island rule
    • Islands
    • Major axis regression
    • Sauria
    • Snout-vent length


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